Partnerships of Possibilities: Kitchen Harvest & Untours Foundation

https://vimeo.com/175121932

Kitchen Harvest, Inc from Frances Schwabenland on Vimeo.

If you are lucky enough to spend time with Chris, you will be in the midst of poetry in motion! An artist of nature!

It was just after sunrise when I was introduced to the Kitchen Harvest garden. I am not a morning person but the thought of missing that golden light awakening those tender baby strawberries and shining on the newly formed dew drops that dotted the lettuce and broccoli caused me to shake off my stupor, run to set up my camera a not miss this moment of glory. Nature was putting on a show and I was lucky enough to capture it! Our conversation was casual but as Chris started harvesting the fresh vegetables he was going to deliver to his residential customers later that day, his words were poetic and profound. I now had to run to get my tape recorder to not miss a word of wisdom generated when one works closely with the earth! I was with a man whose spirit and livelihood is so intimately connected to the movements of nature. He spoke about the excitement of unearthing things growing below the ground. He used the words, “Magic” ,”Surprise”, “Nurture”. He spoke about patience and allowing everything its own time and pace.

Photographing the dynamic light and vibrancy of the garden, I couldn’t help but realize the contrast all around us. We were in the middle of a cemetery. Chris saw an empty, overgrown area and thought growth! Listening to him explain how the garden came to be, I understood and admired his deep appreciation and respect for the interplay of life and death. It has been a guiding vision for him.

On Wednesday, July 13, 2016, the Guardian reported, “Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a cult of perfection, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment.” About 1/3 of all food scraps, about 60 tons, worth 160 billion, is wasted by retailers and consumers every year. According to the EPA, “Discarded food is the biggest single component of landfills and incinerators today.” When I first met Chris and asked him how Kitchen Harvest started, he replied that it has been a bit of a love story and after standing on the side lines photographing all that he does, I couldn’t have said it better. He and his wife, Timi, want/wanted to live differently, not being one of the statistics above. They wanted to give their new child, the freshest food possible while honoring the earth…respecting and not pillaging, renewing and not leaving barren. Thus, their son wasn’t their only birthing…Kitchen Harvest, Inc was started in 2010, the same year Cassidy was born!

The food waste from many residential customers, schools and institutions like Villanova University, restaurants such as The Sterling Pig Brewery and now the DNC all are working with Chris and Kitchen Harvest. The left over food, grains and lawn cuttings are all collected and taken to Linvilla Orchards where in 6 to 9 months, it is transformed into a beautiful, dark, healthy compost, not sitting somewhere in a landfill. The compost is then shared back with the community. The gardens and vegetables grown in this compost can be summed up in one word, “Abundant”! Not only does Chris transform waste products, he transformed me! He and his wife invited me to their home for a meal. I know this sounds corny, but I never saw lettuce so full and healthy. I never tasted anything like it. Who needed salad dressing? The anemic greens, so long a staple of my diet are a thing of the past! Together Chris and Timi created such a delicious alchemy of colors, textures and tastes. Cassidy, their son, told me that when he helps his dad weed, he takes them and pots them up because you never know what it could become! He was raised knowing that waste can be turned into magic!
I wish we all could realize that.

The Untours Foundation , under the leadership of Elizabeth Killough, works to alleviate poverty by providing low-interest loans or equity to individuals and organizations who create employment, housing and valuable goods and services in economically challenged communities. Untours fuels projects that are environmentally and economically pioneering, setting new models for which all businesses can strive. Their low-interest loan to Kitchen Harvest has helped Chris run his successful business. Working with Elizabeth, I am so honored to know such caring individuals who go above and beyond to make such a positive and lasting difference.

Partnerships of Respect, Resources and Renewal

“Life happens” or in this case, “Synchronicity is magic.” Events unfolded that brought together a freelance photographer and the very gifted director of the Untours Foundation, Elizabeth Killough. As a photographer, I love a great story and Elizabeth has so many of them. Under her leadership and enthusiasm, walking in the footsteps of founder Hal Taussig, the Untours Foundation works to alleviate poverty by providing low interest loans to those creating employment, housing, valuable goods and services in economically challenged communities. Untours also fuels projects that are environmentally and economically pioneering thereby creating business models to emulate.

I feel honored to have her introduction into these worlds of creativity, insight and problem solving.

My Reflections While Photographing:
“I have about 900 pounds to do today.”
“I have to be here.” Mildred was fighting a cold but she didn’t let that stop her. Her sense of responsibility and dedication have made her the first Employee of the Month for Wash Cycle Laundry. That morning, 39 bags filled with clothes, linens, sheets and towels had to be weighed, checked in on the computer, washed, dried, folded and put back into a clean bag to be returned within the 24 hour turn around time. The music was playing and Mildred started to dance as she went about this well organized process even though she didn’t feel up to par.
“Give me my music and I am good to go!”
There was an open Bible on a side shelf that I noticed. When I inquired about it, Mildred told me that some days she gets to read it and some days she never gets to it but she hopes that having it there and open will give everyone a “Blessed day!”

Tracey creates the same positive energy at the location on 1611 South Street. Being the manager means that she arrives a little after 6 each morning and could work for up to 12 hours. She wants to make sure that all laundry is done and delivered correctly on her watch. Tracey is part of the sandwich generation, taking care of her mother and daughters before and after lifting those heavy bags and taking them from soiled to clean and fresh, all with eco-friendly detergent. Nicole and Vicki were the staff that day. Nicole’s son is teething at the moment and she lights up talking about him and Vicki also works in health care but has a love and appreciation for art. The conversation and movements between the three women pointed to the connection forged by working together. In a small area, the process was like a dance. Tracey told me that “Gabriel sees the best in everyone and he has taught her to do the same.”

Wash Cycle Laundry is proving that bikes are commercially-scalable alternatives to trucks for intra-metropolitan freight. Over 3 million pounds of cargo are hauled across Philadelphia and Washington DC since the company began in 2010. Jason, Steve, Nivan are just a few of those who could haul up to 300 pounds of laundry by bike…in all kinds of weather! These guys are in great shape!!! Their work day starts in the wee hours of the morning. They come in and check the computer and their app listing the names, addresses, number of bags etc. so they are always tracking all laundry from beginning to end.
Jason has been working for WCL for two years with no thoughts of leaving. “Where else could I get paid for riding my bike?”

Gabriel Mandujano created Wash Cycle Laundry to merge his experience and passions with job creation, economic development, and sustainable transport. He believes in not stigmatizing people and does look for that spark, that desire to begin again and establish a life of success. Approximately 50 jobs have been created and over half filled by driven adults re-entering the workforce after overcoming a period of incarceration, drug addiction, homelessness, or welfare dependence.
WCL is a triple-bottom line company with a mission and commitment to serve the critical needs of individuals, the community and the environment.This is definitely a growing social enterprise both locally and nationally…with a slightly improbable delivery method!

Eco Friendly Delivery
Eco Friendly Delivery